Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Pope Francis to celebrate Mass today at St Peters Basilica for Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Our Lady of Guadalupe: Pope to Celebrate Mass
Will be Carried Live from St. Peter’s Basilica

Pope Francis will preside over Mass for the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe at 6 p.m. (Rome) on Tuesday, December 12, 2017.  A number of senior Church officials will join the Holy Father, including Cardinal Sean Patrick O’Malley of Boston and Cardinal Marc Ouellette, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.
The event will be broadcast live on the Vatican YouTube Channel – and then be available for replay. And the booklet for the Mass can be downloaded here:
Ordine servizio – Guadalupe_12dic-
In his December 12, 2016, homily for Our Lady of Guadalupe, Pope Francis proclaimed: “We have a mother!”
He said that “celebrating Mary is, first and foremost, making memory of the mother, remembering that we are not and never will be an orphaned people…And where there is the mother, there is always the presence and flavor of home.
“Where there is the mother, brothers may fight but the sense of unity will always prevail. Where there is the mother, the struggle for fraternity will not be lacking. I have always been impressed to see, in different peoples of Latin America, those struggling mothers who, often alone, manage to bring up their children. This is Mary with us, with her children: a woman who fights against the society of mistrust and blindness, the society of apathy and dispersion; a woman who fights to strengthen the joy of the Gospel, who fights to give ‘flesh’ to the Gospel.”

Monday, December 11, 2017

The Patroness of the Americas; the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Our Lady of Guadalupe

Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe


Feastday: December 12
Patron of the Americas

An elder Mexican man makes his way to Mass in the early morning twilight of December 9, 1531. He is a peasant, a simple farmer and laborer, and he has no education. Born under Aztec rule, he is a convert to Catholicism, and each step he takes this morning is a step into history.
The morning quiet is broken by a strange music that he will later describe as the beautiful sound of birds. Diverting his path to investigate the sound, Juan Diego comes face to face with a radiant apparition of the Virgin Mary.

Juan Diego is 57 years old. He has just encountered the Virgin Mary on Tepeyac Hill, the site of a former Aztec Temple. His wife has died two years earlier, and he lives with his elder uncle, scratching his living from the earth as a humble peasant farmer. Why should this unlearned, man be chosen by Our Lady to carry a message to the Bishop? Perhaps because she would find none other as humble as Juan Diego.
Juan Diego is dazzled by the incredible beauty and miraculous nature of Our Lady's appearance. She appears as a native princess to him, and her words sound more beautiful than the sweetest music ever made.
Our Lady calms the startled traveler, and assures him of who she is. She instructs Juan Diego to visit his bishop and ask that a temple be built on the site of her appearance, so that she will have a place to hear petitions and to heal the suffering of the Mexican people. "Now go and put forth your best effort," Our Lady instructs.
Visibly shaken, Juan Diego approaches the Bishop who is initially very skeptical of his account. What did this peasant truly want? Does he merely seek attention? Notoriety? Money? Or is he possessed by demons? Has Juan Diego been tricked by the Devil?
The Bishop patiently listens to Juan Diego's accounts and dismisses him. The humble farmer has failed.
Juan Diego begins to doubt himself. He returns to Tepeyac Hill where he hopes for some conformation of what he's experienced. Indeed, Our Lady does not disappoint, for she appears again, as radiant as before. Juan Diego tells Our Lady what she already knows, that the Bishop did not believe him. She instructs him to return the next morning and ask again.

The Bishop is beside himself. Why did this peasant insist on telling this story? How could he know if the peasant was lying or perhaps insane? At their second meeting, the Bishop asks for a sign. Juan Diego makes a promise he won't keep, saying he will return the very next morning with a sign from Our Lady.
But that evening, Juan Diego returns home to find his uncle, Juan Bernadino, who is 68 years old, and suddenly, terribly ill. The illness is known to the people there and it brings a burning fever so hot, it's almost always fatal. Juan Diego cannot leave his uncle's bedside to keep his pledge to the Bishop. He spends two days with his uncle, trying to save him. When it becomes apparent his uncle is about to die, he leaves to find a priest who can prepare him for death.
Frightened and saddened, Juan Diego sets off in a great hurry, time is running out, and Juan Diego is afraid his uncle will die without a last confession. On the road, in his way, Our Lady appears for a third time. Upset and afraid, Juan explains himself. Our Lady replies, "Am I not your mother? ... Are you not in the crossing of my arms?" she asks.
Shamed by the admonishment, but emboldened by Our Lady's presence, Juan Diego asks for the sign he promised to the Bishop. He knows he is wrong to doubt Our Lady. Juan Diego is instructed to climb to the top of Tepeyac Hill where he will find flowers. He is to pick the flowers there, which are unlike any he has seen before, and he is to keep them hidden in his tilma until he reaches the Bishop.
Juan Diego is skeptical again. It's December, what flowers could grow on the summit of the hill in this cold?
Nevertheless, he obeys and atop the hill he finds a great number of flowering roses which he picks and hastily gathers into his cloak.
For the third time, Juan Diego is ushered in to see the Bishop. The skeptical cleric has waited for two days to see what sign Our Lady has for him. Juan opens his tilma, letting the roses cascade to the floor. But more than the roses, both men are astonished to see what is painted on his humble tilma - an exquisite image of Our Lady.
In the image, she stands as she appeared, a native princess with high cheekbones. Her head is bowed and her hands are folded in prayer to God. On her blue cloak, the stars are arranged as they appeared in the morning darkness at the hour of her first apparition.

Under her feet, is a great crescent moon, a symbol of the old Aztec religion. The message is clear, she is more powerful than the Aztec gods, yet she herself is not God.
At the same time Our Lady is appearing to Juan Diego, and directing him to cut the flowers on Tepeyac Hill, she also appears to his uncle, Juan Bernadino who believes he is about to die. As soon as she appears, the fever stops and Juan Bernadino feels well again. She tells Juan Bernadino, she wants to be known as "Santa Maria, de Guadalupe."
Our Lady of Guadalupe did not appear again, for her mission was complete. The temple was built and remains there today, in what is now a suburb of Mexico City. Juan Diego's tilma, woven from cactus fibers, with a shelf-life of just 30 years at best, remains miraculously preserved.
The symbolism of Our Lady's dress is obvious to over eight million Native Mexicans, whom all speak different languages. She is brighter than the sun, more powerful than any Aztec god, yet she is not a god herself, and she prays to one greater than her. Her gown is adorned with stars in the correct position as in the night sky, and the gold fringe of her cloak mirrors the surrounding countryside. Millions of natives will convert at the news of what has happened. Millions more will make pilgrimages over the next five centuries to see the miraculous tilma, and to honor Our Lady of Guadalupe. Great miracles continue to occur, even today.
On October 12, 1945, Pope Pius XII, decreed Our Lady of Guadalupe to be "Patroness of all the Americas." Her feast day is December 12, and it is a Holy Day of Obligation in Mexico.
Our Lady of Guadalupe had this to say to Juan Diego:
"Know for certain, least of my sons, that I am the perfect and perpetual Virgin Mary, Mother of the True God through whom everything lives, the Lord of all things near and far, the Master of heaven and earth. It is my earnest wish that a temple be built here to my honor. Here I will demonstrate, I will exhibit, I will give all my love, my compassion, my help and my protection to the people. I am your merciful mother, the merciful mother of all of you who live united in this land, and of all mankind, of all those who love me, of those who cry to me, of those who seek me, of those who have confidence in me. Here I will hear their weeping, their sorrow, and will remedy and alleviate all their multiple sufferings, necessities and misfortunes."

Why every Catholic should reject the song "Mary Did You Know"; certainly never sung at Mass or other Catholic devotionals

Mary Did Know, Yes, She Totally Knew

It’s almost that time of year again, when Protestants roll out the statues of saints (nativity scenes) and sing about Mary. Well, actually just one song about Mary. The ever-popular Mary, Did You Know.   So let’s just clear things up right now so no one can claim ignorance; Mary, Did You Know is heretical nonsense. Seriously, stop singing it and pray for the poor soul who wrote it.
Apparently, some explanation is warranted as I can already hear the music being cued up in every Baptist church in town. Yes, dear friends, it is heretical for both Bible-Only Christians (most Protestants) as well as, and especially, faithful Catholics.
Sola Scriptura Christians are fairly quick to demand chapter and verse support for every Catholic teaching (yes, they do exist, all of them in fact). The Bible they claim is the only authority and source of truth, overlooking of course that nowhere in the Bible does the Bible state, suggest, or imply Sola Scriptura as doctrine. The Bible does not teach Sola Scriptura. Also, documents can’t self-authenticate (totally illogical). I digress.
Ok, so here we are during the Christmas season and a song with a super catchy melody asks if Mary knew. Here are the lyrics:
Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day walk on water?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?

This child that you’ve delivered, will soon deliver you
Mary did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will calm a storm with his hand?
Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
And when you kiss your little baby, you have kissed the face of God
Mary did you know, Mary did you know, Mary did you know
The blind will see, the deaf will hear and the dead will live again
The lame will leap, the dumb will speak, the praises of the lamb
Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy is heaven’s perfect Lamb?
This sleeping child you’re holding is the great I am
Mary did you know, Mary did you know, Mary did you know
Let us now consider Luke Chapter 1. An angel of God named Gabriel visits Mary. The angel announces to Mary that she has “found favor with God” and she will “conceive” in her womb and bear a son, “and you shall call his name Jesus,” which is literally the Hebrew name for “the Lord (Yhwh) saves.” So here we have Christ’s identity and His mission! The angel continues, “He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and his kingdom there will be no end.” The angel was pretty clear who this baby Jesus was. Mary knew because the angel told her. Scripture is so very clear about that.
If anyone knew, it was Mary! She confirms this knowledge in the canticle she offers to Elizabeth when they first meet and St. John the Baptist recognizes his Messiah in Mary’s womb. If fact, Elizabeth knew too! Upon meeting Mary, she declares, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the child in my womb leaped for you. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” Here Elizabeth is even declaring the truth of Jesus and acknowledged that Mary is blessed for believing this truth. Mary knew, and so did Elizabeth and the yet to be born John the Baptist!
Let us also consider Mary’s Magnificat in Luke 1:46-56, and Mary said, “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.  From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me— holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers.” How much clearer can Mary articulate that she understood who this baby was and what His mission was to be in light of the fulfillment of the prophesized Messiah?
Catholics should be especially cautious about this song for the line, This child that you’ve delivered, will soon deliver you.” Nooooo! Really? What does she need to be delivered from? Sin? Nope! Catholics understand the angel’s greeting, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!” (Luke 1:28) Mary was without sin and we call this special grace her Immaculate Conception. She was preserved from original sin. God is her savior because she was protected from sin by being preserved from it in the first place by a special gift of God. She will not “soon” be delivered, as she was delivered before St. Anne conceived her.
This is a dogma the faithful are bound to accept. It has always been true that Mary was immaculately conceived as even Scripture tells us she is “full of grace.” If something is full, nothing can be added to it. There is no room for sin. This doctrine makes sense because the spotless purity of Jesus could not be contained in an unclean vessel. Mary had to be pure and preserved from all sin, even the stain of original sin.
In 1854 Pope Pius IX offered the dogmatic definition of the doctrine by stating, “We declare, pronounce and define that the doctrine which asserts that the Blessed Virgin Mary, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God, and in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, was preserved free from every stain of original sin is a doctrine revealed by God and, for this reason, must be firmly and constantly believed by all the faithful.”
Scripture contradicts this lyric that Mary will “one day” be saved/delivered and the Church has through its magisterial role defined this doctrine so the faithful can understand not just who Mary is, but who Jesus is. This doctrine speaks to the perfection of Christ that he would create, with intention, His own mother with a perfect soul, “full of grace.”
We should also not forget Luke 2: 22-38 when Mary and Joseph present baby Jesus in the temple and Simeon and Anna offer prophesy about Jesus. Simeon even tells Mary, “Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against, and a sword will pierce through your own soul also.” Yes, Mary knew the suffering and trial that was to come.
I’ll finish with some words of Mary from the revelations of St. Bridget, a mystic from Sweden born in 1303. Upon presenting Jesus to the Temple, Mary recalls to St. Bridget:
“For though, by divine inspiration, I knew that my Son was to suffer, yet this grief pierced my heart more keenly at Simeon’s words, when he said that a sword should pierce my soul, and that my Son should be set for a sign to be contradicted. And until I was assumed in body and soul to Heaven, this grief never left my heart, . . . for every time that I looked upon my Son, wrapped Him in His swaddling clothes, or gazed upon His hands and feet, so often was my soul swallowed up, as it were, by fresh grief, for I thought how He was to be crucified.”
Yes, Mary knew, and we should love her even more because she did.

A Papal Advent Homily that goes along with my Advent goal of more kindness

Santa Marta: Let Go of Grudges, Complaints
Pope Urges Faithful to Be Consoled by the Lord

© PHOTO.VA - Osservatore Romano
Leave behind grudges and complaints, and let yourselves be consoled by the Lord.
According to Vatican Radio, Pope Francis gave this reminder today, Dec. 11, 2017, during his daily morning Mass in his residence Casa Santa Marta, as he reflected on the day’s first reading from the Prophet Isaiah, who says God comes to give us peace.
The Pope observed that we — similar to the first disciples– have trouble letting ourselves being consoled by the miracles God performs in our lives, just like they had trouble immediately accepting the Resurrection.
What is easier for us, the Pope noted, is to console others, rather than to let ourselves be consoled.
“So often, we are attached to the negative sins and scars in our hearts and we prefer to remain there on our sick bed, like the paralyzed man in St Luke’s Gospel,” the Pope lamented, saying we do not want “to hear Jesus telling us to ‘Get up and walk!’”
We prefer, Francis suggested, to bear grudges and “to stew in our own juice” because then we remain masters of our own “hard hearts.”
“Like the paralyzed man,” the Pope explained, we prefer the ‘bitter root’ of original sin than the sweetness of God’s consolation.”
This bitterness, the Holy Father observed, always leads us to complain, “with a constant whining as the soundtrack to our lives.” The Pontiff recalled the prophet Job “as the Nobel prize winner of whiners,” who complained about all that God did.
Faced with our complaining, the Church–the Pope undersored–says we must have courage.
Pope Francis concluded, urging those present to let God give them peace, and to look into their consciences and hearts, to let go of the bitterness, sadness, and complaints.

Vatican releases the Pope's message for World Day of the Sick

Pope’s Message for 26th World Day of the Sick
Mater Ecclesiae: «“Behold, your son… Behold, your mother”.
And from that hour the disciple took her into his home»

© PHOTO.VA - Osservatore Romano
Mater Ecclesiae: << “Behold, your son… Behold, your mother”
And from that hour the disciple took her into his home” >> — from the Gospel according to St. John, is the title of the Holy Father’s Message for the 26th World Day of the Sick, to be held on 11 February, the feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes.
Here is the full text of the Message, which was signed on November 26, the Feast of Christ the King.

Mater Ecclesiae: « “Behold, your son… Behold, your mother”.
And from that hour the disciple took her into his home. »
(Jn 19:26-27)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The Church’s service to the sick and those who care for them must continue with renewed vigour, in fidelity to the Lord’s command (cf. Lk 9:2-6; Mt 10:1-8; Mk 6:7-13) and following the eloquent example of her Founder and Master.
The theme for this year’s Day of the Sick is provided by the words that Jesus spoke from the Cross to Mary, his Mother, and to John: “Woman, behold your son … Behold your mother. And from that hour the disciple took her into his home” (Jn 19:26-27).
1. The Lord’s words brilliantly illuminate the mystery of the Cross, which does not represent a hopeless tragedy, but rather the place where Jesus manifests his glory and shows his love to the end. That love in turn was to become the basis and rule for the Christian community and the life of each disciple.
Before all else, Jesus’ words are the source of Mary’s maternal vocation for all humanity. Mary was to be, in particular, the Mother of her Son’s disciples, caring for them and their journey through life. As we know, a mother’s care for her son or daughter includes both the material and spiritual dimensions of their upbringing.
The unspeakable pain of the Cross pierces Mary’s soul (cf. Lk 2:35), but does not paralyze her. Quite the opposite. As the Lord’s Mother, a new path of self-giving opens up before her. On the Cross, Jesus showed his concern for the Church and all humanity, and Mary is called to share in that same concern. In describing the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the Acts of the Apostles show that Mary began to carry out this role in the earliest community of the Church. A role that never ceases.
2. John, the beloved disciple, is a figure of the Church, the messianic people. He must acknowledge Mary as his Mother. In doing so, he is called to take her into his home, to see in her the model of all discipleship, and to contemplate the maternal vocation that Jesus entrusted to her, with all that it entails: a loving Mother who gives birth to children capable of loving as Jesus commands. That is why Mary’s maternal vocation to care for her children is entrusted to John and to the Church as a whole. The entire community of disciples is included in Mary’s maternal vocation.
3. John, as a disciple who shared everything with Jesus, knows that the Master wants to lead all people to an encounter with the Father. He can testify to the fact that Jesus met many people suffering from spiritual sickness due to pride (cf. Jn 8:31-39) and from physical ailments (cf. Jn 5:6). He bestowed mercy and forgiveness upon all, and healed the sick as a sign of the abundant life of the Kingdom, where every tear will be wiped away. Like Mary, the disciples are called to care for one another, but not only that. They know that Jesus’ heart is open to all and excludes no one. The Gospel of the Kingdom must be proclaimed to all, and the charity of Christians must be directed to all, simply because they are persons, children of God.
4. The Church’s maternal vocation to the needy and to the sick has found concrete expression throughout the two thousand years of her history in an impressive series of initiatives on behalf of the sick. This history of dedication must not be forgotten. It continues to the present day throughout the world. In countries where adequate public health care systems exist, the work of Catholic religious congregations and dioceses and their hospitals is aimed not only at providing quality medical care, but also at putting the human person at the centre of the healing process, while carrying out scientific research with full respect for life and for Christian moral values. In countries where health care systems are inadequate or non-existent, the Church seeks to do what she can to improve health, eliminate infant mortality and combat widespread disease. Everywhere she tries to provide care, even when she is not in a position to offer a cure. The image of the Church as a “field hospital” that welcomes all those wounded by life is a very concrete reality, for in some parts of the world, missionary and diocesan hospitals are the only institutions providing necessary care to the population.
5. The memory of this long history of service to the sick is cause for rejoicing on the part of the Christian community, and especially those presently engaged in this ministry. Yet we must look to the past above all to let it enrich us. We should learn the lesson it teaches us about the self-sacrificing generosity of many founders of institutes in the service of the infirm, the creativity, prompted by charity, of many initiatives undertaken over the centuries, and the commitment to scientific research as a means of offering innovative and reliable treatments to the sick. This legacy of the past helps us to build a better future, for example, by shielding Catholic hospitals from the business mentality that is seeking worldwide to turn health care into a profit-making enterprise, which ends up discarding the poor. Wise organization and charity demand that the sick person be respected in his or her dignity, and constantly kept at the centre of the therapeutic process. This should likewise be the approach of Christians who work in public structures; through their service, they too are called to bear convincing witness to the Gospel.
6. Jesus bestowed upon the Church his healing power: “These signs will accompany those who believe… they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover (Mk 16:17-18). In the Acts of the Apostles, we read accounts of the healings worked by Peter (cf. Acts 3:4-8) and Paul (cf. Acts 14:8-11). The Church’s mission is a response to Jesus’ gift, for she knows that she must bring to the sick the Lord’s own gaze, full of tenderness and compassion. Health care ministry will always be a necessary and fundamental task, to be carried out with renewed enthusiasm by all, from parish communities to the most largest healthcare institutions. We cannot forget the tender love and perseverance of many families in caring for their chronically sick or severely disabled children, parents and relatives. The care given within families is an extraordinary witness of love for the human person; it needs to be fittingly acknowledged and supported by suitable policies. Doctors and nurses, priests, consecrated men and women, volunteers, families and all those who care for the sick, take part in this ecclesial mission. It is a shared responsibility that enriches the value of the daily service given by each.
7. To Mary, Mother of tender love, we wish to entrust all those who are ill in body and soul, that she may sustain them in hope. We ask her also to help us to be welcoming to our sick brothers and sisters. The Church knows that she requires a special grace to live up to her evangelical task of serving the sick. May our prayers to the Mother of God see us united in an incessant plea that every member of the Church may live with love the vocation to serve life and health. May the Virgin Mary intercede for this Twenty-sixth World Day of the Sick; may she help the sick to experience their suffering in communion with the Lord Jesus; and may she support all those who care for them. To all, the sick, to healthcare workers and to volunteers, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.
From the Vatican, 26 November 2017
Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

This Saint is the Pope that comissioned the Latin Vulgate leading to the Scriptures as we know them today

Pope Saint Damasus I

Image of Pope Saint Damasus I


Feastday: December 11
Birth: 306
Death: 384

All lovers of Scripture have reason to celebrate this day. Damasus was the pope who commissioned Saint Jerome to translate the Scriptures into Latin, the Vulgate version of the Bible.
Damasus was a sixty-year-old deacon when he was elected bishop of Rome in 366. His reign was marked by violence from the start when another group decided to elect a different pope. Both sides tried to enforce their selections through violence. Though the physical fighting stopped, Damasus had to struggle with these opponents throughout his years as pope.
Damasus may not have won this battle directly, but he won the war by initiating works that outlasted all his opponents. Not only did he commission the Vulgate translation but he also changed the liturgical language of the Church from Greek to Latin. He worked hard to preserve and restore the catacombs, the graves of the martyrs, and relics.
Damasus was a writer -- but he didn't author many-volumed treatises as other Christian writers did. Damasus liked to write epigrams in verse: short sayings that capture the essence of what needed to be said. He wrote many epigrams on martyrs and saints. And he wrote one about himself that shows his humility and the respect he had for the martyrs. In a Roman cemetery is the papal crypt he built. All that is left of him there, however, is this: " I, Damasus, wished to be buried here, but I feared to offend the ashes of these holy ones." Instead, when he died in 384, he was buried with his mother and sister.
From the Decree of Damasus (attributed to Damasus): The arrangement of the names of Christ, however, is manifold: Lord, because He is Spirit; Word, because He is God; Son, because He is the only-begotten son of the Father; Man, because He was born of the Virgin; Priest, because He offered Himself as a sacrifice; Shepherd, because He is a guardian; Worm, because He rose again; Mountain, because He is strong; Way, because there is a straight path through Him to life; Lamb, because He suffered; Corner-Stone, because instruction is His; Teacher, because He demonstrates how to live; Sun, because He is the illuminator; Truth, because He is from the Father; Life, because He is the creator; Bread because He is flesh; Samaritan, because He is the merciful protector; Christ, because He is anointed; Jesus, because He is a mediator; Vine, because we are redeemed by His blood; Lion, because he is king; Rock, because He is firm; Flower, because He is the chosen one; Prophet, because He has revealed what is to come.

How I spent the week that was; journeying thru Advent

Reminder at the outset: it's not Christmas yet!  Indeed we are now into the 2nd week of Advent 2017 and this year my mission is to focus on kindness.  I am trying to personally be a kinder person.  Maybe this glimpse into the week that was will give us an idea as to how I am doing.

Of course we began Advent last weekend and I had the unexpected opportunity to preach.  It felt good to be back in the ambo as I missed my preaching weekend in November with that nasty appendix situation.  I was stunned last weekend too at the news that we had lost Fr. Cazenavette to cancer.  After assessing the loss of this awesome holy Priest, I began to get comfortable with the idea that he is rejoicing in Heaven.  The work week began very normal and by Tuesday night I was wrapping up our long walk through Acts of the Apostles for the Christmas/New Year break.  Come Wednesday my big event was the doctor follow up after my appendix and some ongoing issues with serious diabetes since August.  The good news, after 3 months, the numbers on both my A1C and glucose blood sugar showed marked improvements, as did my blood pressure and my weight.  I would call this a great doctor visit, even if it took up most of the afternoon.  Come Thursday evening, with cold and wet weather upon us it was time to prepare for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.  While I would not have Thursday night duty, I was on tap for Friday nights final mass for this feast day.  But Friday morning, after the usual back and forth by those meteorologist types, we awoke to icy rain, sleet and then the snowflake or two.  As I made my way to work, little did I know that we would experience 6 hours of mostly snow.  We are not equipped for this; schools closed, government agencies closed, businesses closed and we were even allowed to close a few hours early.  The snow was exciting for all of us who do not get snow, it was beautiful, great time of year but it is also a little intimidating to drive on, especially when ice is involved.  But all ended well, except for the fact that I could not get to church for mass.  I was dispensed, as they say, but as a Deacon I hated that I could not make it and disappointed that I personally missed Mass on such an important and necessary solemnity.

Before I move on to the weekend, yes I did watch the Saints play Atlanta on Thursday Night Football and yes they lost.  It is a potentially dangerous loss but I really don't want to break down this game or the prospects for what lies ahead for the Saints concerning playoffs.  Suffice to say, I will be following them next week when they take on the Jets.

So Saturday, with the air too cold and snow still on the ground, I decided to help my wife, all day, in preparations for the arrival of my North Carolina family in the coming days.  Inspired by this house work, I also decided to sort through my library of hundreds and hundreds of books!  It was, believe it or not, a productive day.  While we were at it we completed our decorations for the upcoming Christmas season, even though this is still Advent.  Sunday brought two blessed opportunities to assist at Mass, very early this morning at 8 am and very late this afternoon/evening at 6 pm.  I love proclaiming the Gospel of John the Baptist preparing the way.  Tonight also brought our 1st night of Advent Parish Mission with Dr. Vall from Notre Dame Seminary.  We resume the mission tomorrow night at 7.

So my Advent journey continues and I am still striving to be kind, even when cleaning house, sorting books, battling black ice and, most importantly, preparing for the coming of Jesus as Advent continues.  I'm learning to understand that Jesus comes to us everyday, not just at Christmas, not just when He come again in glory, but everyday, to show us His kindness and to strengthen us in holiness.

Keep track of your Advent journey, see how much time is stuff and how much time is waiting, watching and preparing; no matter what you are doing!

Why Mary deserves our honor, why she is important in the story of salvation; and it's all about Jesus!

One key reason why Catholics honor Mary


It's a reason all of us can understand when we look at our families.

Where there is the presence of Jesus, there is the presence of His Mother.
– Fulton J. Sheen
The Catholic devotion to Mary has never come easily to me. I know Mary is, for some people, the way they discovered and really developed a relationship with Jesus. But for me, it was the opposite. Jesus is the one who introduced his Mother to me.
I knew Jesus for several years before I developed or even saw a reason to develop a relationship with his Mother. My devotion to Jesus informed my relationship with Mary. In fact, it becomes clearer to me every day that love for the Word who revealed himself to us as a newborn babe is absolutely inseparable from love for Mary.
No human baby can be separated from his or her human parents. Even if a parent never cares for his or her child, every parent passes on their genetic material to their offspring. The same is true of Jesus. You may have thought of this before but it is something that comes back to my prayer regularly: Jesus is genetically 100 percent from Mary.
As Ignatius of Antioch once put it in his Epistle to the Trallians, “He who forms all men in the womb, was Himself really in the womb, and made for Himself a body of the seed of the Virgin.”
Jesus must have really resembled his mother!
Jesus was not just deposited into the womb of his mother; he was her true offspring in his humanity. For this reason, in the 5th century, the Council of Ephesus affirmed that we can call Mary “Theotokos,” the Mother of God, because Mary gave birth to Jesus who is one divine person with two natures.
The mystery of salvation can never be separated from Mary, the human mother of Jesus.
The same is true of the Eucharist, the “source and summit” of our faith. We would not have the Eucharist were it not for the Incarnation. And Jesus would not have a body were it not for the Fiat of the Virgin Mary. Some might argue that God could have clothed himself in human form according to any method he chose (Saint Anselm would disagree). However, the point is that God chose to incarnate himself in a way that depended on the “Yes” of a humble teenage Jewish girl. It was this young girl who gave the Creator of the Universe, the Word of God, a human body.
This link between the Incarnation of the Word and Mary’s “Yes” has helped me to understand Catholic devotion to Mary. If one can begin to comprehend the monumental moment in history when God, the One without beginning and end, took upon himself human flesh, then one will begin to understand Marian devotion. There are, of course, so many more reasons we honor Mary, but this connection is key.
In the 8th century, Saint John Damascene summed up this great mystery in a homily on the Assumption of Mary:
Thus, recognizing God’s Mother in this Virgin, we celebrate her … not proclaiming her as God—far be from us these heathen fables … but recognizing her as the Mother of the Incarnate God.
To honor Mary is to honor God’s plan of salvation. To honor Mary is to bow down in awe at the wonder of the Incarnation made possible through her “Yes.”
Mary gave Jesus his human nature through her free surrender and her holy “Yes.”
She is an irreplaceable link in the story of our salvation—and for this we honor her.
 “The Father takes pleasure in looking upon the heart of the most holy Virgin Mary, as the masterpiece of his hands.… The Son takes pleasure in it as the heart of His Mother, the source from which He drew the blood that … ransomed us.” — St. John Vianney

2nd Sunday of Advent Angelus Address

Angelus Address: On the Theme of the Second Sunday of Advent
“It’s the Time to Recognize the Voids to Fill in Our Life, to Smooth the Asperities of Pride and to Make Room for Jesus Who Is Coming”

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VATICAN CITY, DECEMBER 10, 2017 (Zenit.org).- Here is a ZENIT translation of the address Pope Francis gave today before and after praying the midday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter’s Square.
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Before the Angelus
 Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
Last Sunday we began Advent with the invitation to watch. Today, the second Sunday of this time of preparation for Christmas, the Liturgy points out the proper contents: it’s the time to recognize the voids to fill in our life, to smooth the asperities of pride and make room for Jesus who is coming.
The prophet Isaiah addresses the people announcing the end of the exile in Babylon and the return to Jerusalem. He prophesizes: “A voice cries: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord [. . .] Every valley shall be lifted up’” (40:3). The valleys to be lifted up represent all the voids of our behavior before God, all our sins of omission. A void in our life can be the fact that we don’t pray or pray little. Hence, Advent is the favorable moment to pray with more intensity, to give to the spiritual life the important place it deserves. Another void might be our lack of charity towards our neighbor, especially towards those most in need of help, not only material but also spiritual. We are called to be more conscious of the needs of others, closer to them. Thus, like John the Baptist, we can open paths of hope in the desert of the arid hearts of so many people.
“Every mountain and hill be made low” (v. 4), exhorts again Isaiah.  The mountains and hills that must be made low are pride, haughtiness arrogance. Where there is pride, where there is arrogance, where there is haughtiness the Lord can’t enter because that heart is full of pride, of haughtiness, of arrogance. Therefore, we must lower this pride. We must assume meek and humble attitudes, without rebuking, listening, talking meekly and thus preparing the coming of our Saviour, He who is meek and humble of heart (Cf. Matthew 11:29). Then we are asked to eliminate all the obstacles we put to our union with the Lord: “The uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed – says Isaiah — and all flesh shall see it together” (Isaiah 40:4-5). However, these actions are to be done with joy, because they are geared to the preparation of Jesus’ arrival. When we expect at home the visit of a dear person, we prepare everything with care and happiness. We want to predispose ourselves in the same way for the coming of the Lord: to attend to Him every day with solicitude, to be filled with His grace when He comes.
The Saviour we await is able to transform our life with the strength of the Holy Spirit, with the strength of love. In fact, the Holy Spirit effuses in our hearts the love of God, inexhaustible source of purification, of new life and of freedom. The Virgin Mary lived this reality in fullness, allowing herself to be “baptized” by the Holy Spirit who inundated her with His power. May she, who prepared the coming of Christ with the totality of her existence, help us to follow her example and guide our steps to encounter the Lord who is coming.
© Libreria Editrice Vatican
[Original Text: Italian]  [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]
After the Angelus
 Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today the Nobel Peace Prize will be awarded to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. This recognition happens to coincide with the United Nations Day for Human Rights, and this stresses the strong link between human rights and nuclear disarmament. In fact, to be committed to the protection of the dignity of all people, in particular, the weakest and most disadvantaged means also to work with determination to build a world without nuclear weapons. God gives us the ability to collaborate to build our common home: we have the freedom, the intelligence and the capacity to guide technology, to limit our power to the service of peace and true progress (Cf. Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’, 78, 112, 202.
“Our Planet Summit” will be held in Paris day after tomorrow. Two years after the adoption of the Paris Agreement on climate, its purpose is to renew the commitment for its implementation and to consolidate a shared strategy to counteract the worrying phenomenon of climate change. I earnestly hope that this Summit, as well as the other initiatives that are in this same direction, will foster a clear awareness of the need to adopt really effective decisions to counteract climate change and, at the same time, to combat poverty and promote integral human development.
In this context, I would like to express my closeness to the Indian populations affected by cyclone Okhi, especially the families of the very many dispersed fishermen, and also to the population of Albania, harshly tried by grave floods.
My greeting goes to all of you, Romans and pilgrims, in particular to the faithful from Valladolid and Huelva, in Spain. I greet the numerous groups of Italian young people and youngsters from Florence, Carugate, Brembate, Alme, Petosino and Pian Camuno: I encourage all to be joyful witnesses of the Gospel.
I wish all a happy Sunday and a good Advent journey, preparing the way for the Lord who is coming.
Please, don’t forget to pray for me. Have a good lunch and goodbye!
© Libreria Editrice Vatican
[Original text: Italian]  [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]